Hanford Reach Butte


I’m excited to begin posting images from a trip that I took back in early June of this year. My friend, Tom, and I traveled together to Maine last year and decided to go on another adventure. One of his bucket list goals is to visit every US national park. North Cascades National Park in north central Washington state was one park he had never visited and was the genesis of our trip to Washington. I had long heard about the beauty of the Palouse, a region in southeast Washington. We decided to visit both locations in one trip. The tricky part was that the peak time to visit the Palouse – at least for the images I had envisioned – was late May to mid June. Unfortunately, that may or may not be too early to hike the trails in North Cascades National Park. As it turned out, the conditions in the Palouse were ideal. The park received above average snowfall and turned out to be a bit of a bust when it came to hiking. Fortunately, the snowfall made for some wonderful images since it still was present in abundance on the mountain peaks.

In order to have the best chance at optimum conditions in both locations, we decided to travel to the Palouse first and end in the North Cascades. We flew into Seattle from Atlanta and rented a car. I think we put about 2500 miles on that Dodge Journey before the trip was over. Needless to say, we drove a lot. In order to see a couple of sights in Central Washington, we drove from Seattle to the tri-cities of Richland, Pasco, and Kennewick. Along the way, we passed through the Hanford Reach National Monument. The monument was formed from the buffer area formed around the Hanford Nuclear Reactor site. Although the intent is to provide a security buffer for the nuclear activity, the monument is actually quite beautiful. It’s a large area that encompasses a river, bluffs, grassland, and step buttes.

This image is of one of those buttes. I don’t even know what it is called, but in the late afternoon light it was beautiful. The grass was still golden green as it emerged in early spring. The butte was also covered in new green grass. The brilliant blue sky was contrasted with large white cumulus clouds that paraded slowly past in the bright sunlight. This cast dark shadows across the otherwise brightly illuminated landscape. Other than the cell towers that had been built on top of the butte and the barbed wire fence in the foreground, this scene stood as it had for thousands of years before. I actually like the barbed wire fence as it forms a leading line into the rest of the images. I only wish the cell towers hadn’t been present.

I felt quite fortunate for this image to be the first one I captured on the trip. Fortunately, there were many more to come. Enjoy.



Portland Head Light on a Foggy Day

Portland Head Light on a Foggy Day

Portland Head Light and the boiling ocean beneath it in the gloom of a foggy day

One of my primary objectives on the Maine trip was to capture an iconic image of Portland Head Light. We had flown into Portland and would fly out of there as well. As it turned out, the lighthouse was only twenty minutes away from the airport. So, I would have three shots at photographing the lighthouse. I thought that would surely be enough and I certainly would get good conditions on at least one of my visits. As it turned out, I needed to learn a thing or two about the weather in coastal Maine.

On landing we headed straight to Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth hoping to catch a break in the weather and to capture a decent image of the lighthouse. Even though the conditions were gloomy while landing, we still took the trip over. We had no luck although we did capture a good image of the lighthouse then. As it turned out, this image was the best one of the lighthouse on the entire trip.

We returned the next morning only to find even worse conditions. It was neat to hear the foghorn and bell, smell the salty air, and experience the Maine-like conditions. It just wasn’t the photograph I had envisioned. I left disappointed but hopeful because I knew that I would have another shot at the image at the end of our trip. Surely conditions would change by then.

And conditions did change. After a deluge the following day and evening, the weather turned clear, crisp, and beautiful. We had wonderful conditions for photographing Acadia and on our way back down the coast toward Portland. But, on our last day, the weather turned against us once again. The rain moved back in and fog settled along much of the coast. The good news was that this weather system was supposed to be short-lived. The bad news was that it wasn’t supposed to lift until a few hours before our plane took off.

So, in order to have one more shot at the jealously sought after iconic image of Portland Head Light, we headed there as the last stop of our trip. We had an hour or so to kill before we had to be at the airport. The weather forecast showed that we should now be experiencing clearing skies. However, this image shows what we actually experienced. The ceiling wasn’t quite as low as it had been at the beginning of the trip, but it still wasn’t the brilliant sunrise or sunset I had hoped for. It wasn’t even a partly cloudy sky to make for an interesting background to the shot. So, I took this image from the trail on the opposite side of the lighthouse from where the original image was taken. I like the way the ocean is bubbling and boiling below. But, alas, it wasn’t the image I had hoped for.

Having squeezed out as much time as we could and not be in jeopardy of missing our flight, we left Cape Elizabeth. We made our way back to the airport, returned our rental car, checked in, and headed for the gate. Have you been to the Portland airport before? It’s a really neat small airport with modern architecture and neat artwork hanging from the ceilings. It also has huge floor to ceiling windows that allow you to take in the surrounding views. And what did I see? Yes, the elusive blue skies were lifting from the coast and beautiful sunshine began to flood the airport. We had only missed ideal conditions by an hour! I was totally bummed and more than a bit frustrated. I wanted to head back out right then and take my shot. But, I couldn’t.

All things considered, it was a brilliant trip. Maine was everything I had hoped it would be. The conditions had been as good as I could have hoped for. I had captured some amazing images – and I had a perfect excuse to return.

Barn Door and Flag

Barn Door and Flag

A weathered barn proudly displays a replica of an early American flag

The weather turned ugly the afternoon of the day we shot at Pemaquid Point Light. Our plan was to make our way back to Marshall Point Light which was sort of on our way home. The unusual thing about the Maine coast is that it takes a long time to get just about anywhere. The coast is a beautiful series of peninsulas that jut out into the Atlanta. Those peninsulas usually end in a rocky headland with a beautiful lighthouse perched somewhere on the edge.

As you can see from the map, the distance from Pemaquid Point to Marshall Point isn’t that great. But, by the time you drive all the way up one peninsula and down the next, the distance is probably four times greater than the direct water route. Because of this anomaly, we spent a week along the Maine coast and felt like we had driven the entire time. The irony is that we could have taken I-95 and driven from Portland to Bar Harbor in four hours or so. Of course, we would have missed all the beauty. It really is a different world just a few miles east of the interstate.

This picture was taken somewhere on the coast road between Pemaquid and Waldoboro. I didn’t have the GPS gizmo attached to my camera for part of the day and didn’t get the exact fix. By the way, we had a great lunch in Waldoboro. One of the best things about traveling is the need to try different food at different places. Moody’s Diner is one of those places. It’s been in the same location since the 1920s and looks it. The place has been added onto haphazardly yet the food is still delicious. It’s simple diner fare but done well. You definitely should stop in there if you are in the neighborhood.

There really isn’t anything super special about this shot. I just love the green grass contrasting with the deep red color of the barn. The weathered shingles and boards give the image some added interest. The flag is weathered and seems made to hang from the door of this old barn.

There really are millions of images that can be taken on the Maine coast. It’s a truly beautiful part of America that many people will never visit. That’s a pity, but a relief all at the same time. I know the coast is jammed with people during Maine’s short summer. But, the rest of the year is blessedly free of the mobs. Visit there sometime – but don’t tell your friends about it. It’s just our little secret.

Boat, Barn, and Flag

Boat, Barn, and Flag

This combination of boat, barn, and flag represents a typical scene that can be found in Maine

After spending a few hours at Pemaquid Point, we made our way back up the peninsula in order to head back toward our hotel. It was a rainy, overcast day and the plan was to pick a few carefully chosen spots in order to avoid the nasty weather.

As is often the case when the weather isn’t ideal, a scene jumped out at me as we drove by. Since we were still very near the coast, it shouldn’t have surprised me to see a boat on supports under repair. Nevertheless, it made for an interesting sight.

As I walked up and down the road a bit to find the best angle, I kept returning to this composition. The boat with the Maine registration tells me that this is a coastal scene. The red shingled barn is beautiful unto itself. The green shingles and white trim contrast beautiful with the barn siding. I especially like the white shingles that have been interwoven with the green ones in a repair job. The American flag adds a jolt of color and makes this a uniquely American scene. Boat, Barn, and Flag isn’t the most creative name for an image, but it certainly describes this one. Enjoy.

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse and Reflection

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse and Reflection

Pemaquid Point lighthouse, as reflected in a shallow tide pool, and the unique rock formation that stands between it and the ocean

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is one of a string of many lighthouses that dot the Maine coast. Most, though, are not as scenic as Pemaquid Point.

There are a number of factors that make this lighthouse unique and visually appealing. The first and most obvious is its setting. Some lighthouses are placed into narrow openings on a rocky headland or are visible only from the sea. Pemaquid Point sits majestically on a rocky point and is visible from all angles.

The red outbuilding that sits alongside the lighthouse adds to the visual impact of the scene as well. The building is a bell house that was added to provide an audible warning in addition to the visual cue of the light itself. Given the fact that the lighthouse is located less than a hundred yards from the ocean, it’s hard to believe that its powerful light beam might not be a sufficient warning to passing ships. You can see the bell hanging from a white arm on the ocean facing side of the red bell building.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this scene is the rock formation that forms the foreground of the image. The rock ledges seen here extend all the way to the ocean and form beautiful leading lines toward the lighthouse. I’m no geologist, but from what I’ve read the rock ledges are primarily metamorphic with strands of igneous rock running in veins alongside the metamorphic. The igneous rock can be seen in the extreme right mid-ground while the other ledges are metamorphic.

The final unique visual element in this image is the reflection. After heavy rains or high tides, these pools appear in depressions in the rock. On calm days they make ideal tools to create reflections of the lighthouse and outbuildings. On this day I had to wait quite a bit while wind gusts passed through in order to eliminated ripples that would form in the pools.

I had hoped to capture this scene with a brilliant sunrise or sunset as the background. At the very least, I hoped to get a partly cloudy day with a mix of blue sky and interesting cloud formations. Unfortunately, on our way up the coast and back down we had leaden gray skies. Fortunately, on this day the rain held off until well after our visit allowing us to negotiate the rocks without slip sliding away (an homage to Paul Simon).

This is by no means a unique image. I’ve seen many different versions taken from this spot or another one close by on the rock ledge. However, it is one that I’m glad to have in my collection. There’s a reason that this lighthouse is visited so much. It’s scenic and deserves to be visited and photographed repeatedly.

Sunset over Camden, Maine

Sunset as viewed from Camden Hills State Park, Maine

The sunset erupted this night and is shown as viewed from Camden Hills State Park

Camden, Maine

Camden, Maine as viewed from Camden Hills State Park

As we worked our way back down the coast toward Portland, there were a few places we wanted to visit. One of those was Camden, Maine. We had stopped there briefly on our way north, but that day was overcast and rainy. We hoped for better weather on the way back south.

The whole area of the mid-Maine coast is beautiful. I have some friends who had mentioned that they stay in Camden for a week or two every summer. Until this trip, I really didn’t understand the allure of the region. After spending some time there, I can see why people would want to vacation there. There is boating, hiking, shopping, dining, and loads of other things to do. The weather in the summer must be a huge improvement over other parts of the country. With the sea breeze and northern location, summers must be very pleasant. I’m not yet convinced about winter, though. This southern boy would have a tough time with winter stretching from November through April or May.

On our way up the coast, we noticed Camden Hills State Park and Mt. Battie that looms over the village of Camden. It seemed like a great spot to take in the vista of Penobscot Bay and Camden. So, we checked it out mid-day and decided to come back in late afternoon hoping for a great sunset.

On our arrival that afternoon, we poked around looking for the best vantage point atop Mt. Battie. There is a stone tower at the summit and it didn’t take long to realize that the best point of view would be from the tower. So, we set up shop on the small platform at the top of the tower. There was probably room for six or eight people up there and we were taking up at least our share of the space with our tripods and camera gear.

As the afternoon progressed, an assortment of people made their up to the top of Mt. Battie and to the tower itself. We talked to one and all but most just moved on after a few minutes. After a while, a couple of other photographers showed up and it was clear that they were there for the sunset as well. We began to talk with them and picked up some good information about other spots to shoot and how conditions were this fall compared to normal. It turned out that our suspicion that the leaf season was running one to two weeks late was correct. Both of the locals rated the conditions around Camden as sub par. I would dearly love to be there in a year where they thought conditions were above average!

As we watched the sun move toward the horizon I began to think that sunset would be either a total bust or awesome. There was a cloud formation that was hovering overhead but was not reaching down to the horizon. It appeared that *if* the sun dropped below the cloud layer and above the horizon, the whole cloud mass could turn color brilliantly. But, the longer we waited the less I could tell if it would happen or not. I did know that if it did turn, it wouldn’t last long.

At the same time, the late afternoon light was being blocked from the landscape to the south and east. Our hope was that brilliant soft light would flood the landscape below us and create a memorable view of Camden and the bay beyond. I just hoped that we would get the beautiful sunset or the Camden shot. As we neared sunset, it became obvious that the latter would not occur. So, I settled for taking some long exposures that showed some of the lights in the town of Camden while also keeping the detail of the buildings and greens at twilight.

Then, I turned my focus to the sunset. One problem was that the hills in the distance were blocking our direct view of the horizon. I knew that we were near sunset but the scene hadn’t yet changed dramatically. However, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the best conditions for a sunset often happen ten or twenty minutes after the sun sets. That was the case this night. Slowly, the clouds in front of us began to light up. Over the course of the next ten minutes, the show just got better and better. Ultimately, the entire cloud formation was lit up and resembled a volcano erupting from the mountains in the distance. Virtually ever cloud in the formation had some tint of color by the peak of the sunset.

The scene you see here is created from a sequence of seven images shot one stop apart for each image. The longest exposure is 1/3 of a second and the shortest is 1/200. The images were opened as RAW files in Aperture and blended using the Exposure Blending tool in Photomatix Pro. Without blending I would have lost the color in the row of trees in the foreground and the detail in the brightest clouds.

Considering some of the sunsets that we missed earlier in the trip, it was a real treat to have such a perfect one emerge at the end of our trip. This is one of my five favorite images of the entire week. Enjoy.


Stonington Harbor

Early morning light on the lovely little fishing village of Stonington, Maine

Truth be told, this post is more about the trip to Stonington than it is about Stonington itself. Now, don’t get me wrong. Stonington is a lovely little fishing village, but it wasn’t all that it was built up to be. Let me explain.

Part of my research for the trip was accomplished by purchasing a couple of books on the Maine coast and Acadia National Park. The author was spot on in most of his recommendations regarding locations to visit. In fact, he was so reliable that we began to take his word as gospel. That was the case with Stonington. You see, the primary target for our trip was Acadia National Park. We wanted to make sure that we spent enough time there to ensure that we captured all of the sights properly. Everything else was secondary. Based on our dear author’s recommendation, Stonington rose to the top of the list of other sites to photograph on the Maine coast. To read his review Stonington was the be all to end all harbor on the Maine coast. The Camelot of our journey. The shining light on a hill.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way. We left our hotel just outside of Acadia and began the drive to Stonington. Our plan was to make it to the harbor at daybreak and see the lobster fleet heading out for the day. Sadly, we misjudged the distance to the town and the quality of the roads. What looked to be a 30 to 45 minute trip actually took us two hours. The sunrise was indeed spectacular, but on the particular stretch of road we were on, we simply couldn’t find a vantage point to photograph it. Still, we thought, Stonington is ahead. Everything will be better when we get to Stonington.

Along the way, we saw coffee shops and bakeries that we could have stopped at to assuage our hunger and thirst. No, we can’t stop though. We must make our way to the mythical Stonington. So, on we drove through beautiful countryside and along winding roads. Finally we arrived at Stonington. There was only one problem. The sun had risen. The fleet had made its way out to sea for the day. All that was left was a lovely little village around a nice little harbor. One lonely fishing boat remained in the harbor. Had it broken down? Was its captain sick that day? We’ll never know. Fortunately, the morning light was still soft and lit the boat up nicely. The water was still calm enough that a bit of reflection remained as well. So, I got a lovely photograph for my efforts, but not the target-rich photographic environment that I had anticipated. In fact, I was disappointed. Stonington, though lovely, was not nearly as pretty as Corea or Rockport.

As I said at the beginning, the real story was the road to Stonington, not the village itself. As is frequently the case, it just means that Stonington is on my list of places to visit again in the future. Hopefully, the next visit will yield more results.

Winter Harbor Lighthouse at Sunset

Winter Harbor Lighthouse at Sunset

Winter Harbor LIghthouse with the glow of a beautiful sunset in the sky above

Winter Harbor Lighthouse 2

Winter Harbor Lighthouse at twilight

One of the primary reasons for our visit to the Schoodic Peninsula was the chance that we might see an epic sunset over Mt. Desert Island. Having been on top of Cadillac Mountain looking toward the peninsula at sunrise, it seemed like a different angle that might not have been captured often. So, as is often the case, I found myself scrambling toward a sunset location without really knowing where I wanted to end up. We had seen a lighthouse in the bay earlier in the day, so I had some inkling of an idea about putting the lighthouse in the foreground of an awesome sunset.

Unfortunately, we lingered too long in Corea capturing its pastoral beauty, further down the peninsula shooting crashing waves, and stopping periodically to take just “one more shot”. That’s usually the way it is when I am in some beautiful place that I have never been before. I never seem to leave enough time to shoot as much as I would like.

In any case, we were cruising down the highway watching the sunset becoming more promising by the minute. By the time we turned down the coast road, it was obvious that we would need to stop as soon as we found a decent foreground. Fortunately, the aforementioned lighthouse came into view just a couple of miles down the road. Once we found the right spot, we stopped quickly and set up the tripods. The good news was that a dynamite sunset was forming. The bad news was that it was mostly blocked by Cadillac Mountain and the truly bright colors were hovering near the horizon. We could tell that the sunset at Bass Head Light was fantastic. We were unfortunately a day early. That is where we had spent our sunset the night before and had only a slight bit of color in the sky.

So, I turned my attention to what I had available – the lighthouse. The lighthouse appears to be referred to as both the Winter Harbor Lighthouse and the Mark Island Lighthouse. Even though the truly gorgeous sky was twenty degrees or so to the south, there was still some color beginning to show near the lighthouse. I began to visualize a shot with the lighthouse on the horizon with a cherry red sky above. That never materialized. In fact, the sun set and the ambient light began to dim. But, as is often the case with sunsets, the longer I waited, the more color appeared in the sky. I decided to bracket some exposures and see if I could create a usable image of the lighthouse without totally blowing out the much brighter sky. Both of these images are a result of that process.

They are both shot at f/5.6 and varying speeds. I used my 70-200 2.8 with a 2x teleconverter which pushed my aperture to 5.6. I didn’t need that much depth of field for this shot since the lighthouse was probably a half mile away. I wish there had been enough reflected light to illuminate the lighthouse a bit more. I don’t like how dim it is in either image. I do like the composition and the sky above. My favorite of the two images is the first because of the pink, rosy sky and the slightly brighter white of the lighthouse. However, I prefer the composition of the second image even though the atmosphere rendered the clouds and the entire scene a bit too blue for my taste. I’d love to get some other opinions about which image you prefer.

Rowboats in Corea Harbor

Rowboats in Corea Harbor

These weathered rowboats form an abstract image of many different colors and patterns

As we moved from point to point of coastal Maine, there were several constants. In virtually every village we would see lobster boats, weathered houses, white steepled churches, and lighthouses. Another constant was rowboats or skiffs. Fishermen use these boats to move back and forth between their fishing boats at anchor out in the harbor and the docks near where they park their trucks or near their homes. I began to look for scenes featuring the skiffs hoping I could find a group that would represent the image I had already visualized in my mind.

Many of the docks we would see had these colorful rowboats tethered in rows or in a cluster. They reminded me of a faithful dog lying on the front porch awaiting the return of his master. If the lobster boats were out for the day, the boats would be tethered to a buoy in the harbor marking the spot where the lobster boat would return after a day at sea. If the rowboats were at the dock, it meant that the lobster boats were through for the day.

Corea, Maine was no exception. Since we were there in mid to late-afternoon, the rowboats were tied to cleats on the dock. This group of rowboats caught my eye because of the weathering apparent in the wood and fiberglass of each boat. I also like the variety of colors and the way the shadows fall along the lines of the boats. The ropes and anchor points add to the abstract nature of the image.

As I mentioned yesterday, Corea is a beautiful, unspoiled Maine fishing village. As I work back through the images I took last fall, I begin to appreciate anew just how special it is. Hopefully it stays that way until I can visit again.

Jordan Stream

Jordan Stream - vertical

Acadia National Park's Jordan Stream surrounded by foliage at the peak of fall color

As I did research for the Maine photography trip, I kept running across images and commentary about Jordan Pond and Jordan Stream. Having never fully explored Acadia, I could only get a vague understanding of how these two bodies of water were related. I assumed that Jordan Pond was formed by Jordan Stream and that, based on the topography, the stream emptied from the pond. As it turned out that was a correct assumption.

In fact, Jordan Pond is a manmade lake formed by damming Jordan Stream. The series of carriage paths that I have described in earlier posts run around and across the pond and the stream. What I had no context for understanding was how easily accessible and intimate both would be. In the Smokies, I’m used to streams that form deep gorges forming steep banks making access difficult to impossible. At Jordan Pond, trails ran around the entire pond with frequent access points to the shoreline. Jordan Stream had paths on both sides of the stream and could easily be hiked from beginning to end. Well, I’m not certain about all the way to the end since it likely dumped into the Atlantic and I didn’t follow it that far.

In any case, access was easy and there were many vantage points to set up my tripod. Unfortunately, the color around the stream wasn’t quite at peak and the variety of trees wasn’t nearly as wide as I would have liked. I had seen images of red maples at the peak of their fall color contrasted against the quaint stream. Either those trees were well before or after their peak or I didn’t see all of Jordan Stream. In addition, there was a lot of deadfall in and around the stream that cluttered up the images that looked promising. As I started our short hike, I hoped that the whole length of the stream wouldn’t have the same conditions.

As it turned out, there was exactly one spot that had the conditions that I hoped to find. The image above is one version of that spot. As you can see there is one perfectly placed red maple, other trees with yellow leaves in the background, a nice view upstream of the water, a small cascade in the foreground, and a fern turning color itself to add further interest to the foreground. As I set up my tripod, I realized that this was the shot I had formed in my mind’s eye. I was excited to say the least. I must have shot a hundred images of this scene varying exposure and composition. This shot is one of my favorites. I really couldn’t decide if I preferred the vertical or horizontal version. Perhaps I will post the other soon and let you decide.

This shot was shot with an exposure of 1.3 seconds at f/22. It was shot with a polarizer to pop the colors a bit and a neutral density filter to allow the long exposure. Other than that there isn’t a lot of post-processing involved. I had to wait for the wind to die down to minimize leaf blur. I also had to pause a bit as the sun came out from behind the clouds that generally covered the skies. The high overcast and cloud cover helped to even out the scene overall.

When I think of Acadia National Park, this is one of the images that pops into my mind. Acadia can be symbolized by rugged coastlines and crashing waves, but intimate images like this are prevalent as well. Enjoy.